ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Nawshirwan Mustafa, leader of the Change Movement (Gorran), passed away at the age of 73 on May 19, 2017, at 8 am in his home in the city of Sulaimani. He was buried the day after his death at the place of his choice, Zargata Hill, where he built his movement. His death has now left some open questions as to who will replace him and the future of the Change Movement.
Some leaders from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Gorran party were aware that Mustafa was suffering from lung cancer. His symptoms had become apparent after his party signed a bilateral alliance with the PUK in May 2016. His doctors had regrettably informed him that his condition was terminal.
“His doctors had prescribed chemotherapy for him, which wouldn’t have been of much use. This treatment would have delayed his death only by six months. But he wasn’t prepared to take this kind of medication. He had told our colleagues that he was ready to die whenever death should come,” a PUK leadership member told Rudaw on condition of anonymity.
“On the day he died, his relatives had earlier made preparations for Mr Nawshirwan to visit the grave of his wife, Shuhla, at Saywan Hill. But his health deteriorated at 6 am. His temperature rose and he lost the ability to talk. It was only his children, his brother Bakhtiar, his nephews, and two well-known doctors from Sulaimani who were there at the time. Some Gorran officials, Qadiri Haji Ali, Omar Saed Ali, Mohammed Tofiq Rahim, and Dr Shorsh Haji, came over at 7:30 am. He died at 8 am,” a person close to Mustafa’s family told Rudaw.
“By the time I arrived there, he had already passed away. Nawshirwan died a tireless patriot. He was never afraid of death, during his lifetime as a Peshmerga fighter until his death,” Awat Sheikh Janab, member of Gorran’s National Assembly, said.
Why was he buried on Zargata Hill?
Before his death, Nawshirwan Mustafa had asked that he be buried on Zargata Hill. Some people think there is a reason behind his request.
“Nawshirwan’s choice of this place carries a great and symbolic message. It is intended to make his colleagues and Gorran fans remember and continue his philosophy, vision, and programs. In addition, it also conveys a message to Gorran leaders to remain united and independent,” Adnan Osman, a Gorran official, told Rudaw.
Gorran’s headquarters are located on Zargata Hill.
The death of Nawshirwan Mustafa has now made the people of Kurdistan wonder about the fate of the Gorran party and a replacement for its leader.
“Nawshirwan asked us to implement the Gorran party’s constitution. And we will be proceeding according to what the constitution has to say about the position of the party’s leader,” Janab said. “Nawshirwan had put us under test for two years, watching us from a distance.”
“We talked to Nawshirwan about this subject on many occasions. We have his letter saying that removing or replacing the Gorran leader is the easiest thing within the party. According to Gorran’s internal constitution (the party’s by-laws), mechanisms for changing or appointing somebody as the Gorran leader are not complex,” Osman said.
According to part 9, article 1, section 2 in the Gorran party’s internal constitution, the National Assembly is the party’s highest body.
Nawshirwan’s body was shrouded in the Kurdistan flag which, after his burial, was handed to Gorran’s National Assembly Secretary Jamal Mohammed as an indication he will be leading the party at this stage.
“Jamal Mohammed comes second to Nawshirwan, according to the party’s structure. He was overseeing the meetings in the absence of Nawshirwan. However, this doesn’t mean he will be appointed as the party’s leader. Rather, it just means he is second to Nawshirwan. He is the Secretary of the National Assembly. Now that Nawshirwan Mustafa has passed away, Jamal is Gorran’s highest official according to the party’s organ structure,” Osman explained.
Nawshirwan had already assigned Omar Saed Ali to execute the party’s legal affairs in Kurdistan. He had also assigned the Iraqi Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aram Sheikh Mohammed to execute Gorran’s legal affairs in Baghdad. In addition, the party’s affairs were run by Qadir Haji Ali, Omar Saed Ali and Osmani Haji Mahmud, while Nawshirwan was away. These three officials are therefore likely candidates to replace the party’s leader.
The strongest candidate is Qadir Haji Ali who comes from a well-known family in Sulaimani and was a close friend of Nawshirwan. He was previously a PUK Peshmerga veteran, the PUK’s politburo executive, and head of the party’s intelligence body known as Zaniari. He is described within the Gorran party as the ‘Black Box’ due to his extensive relations and background knowledge of the PUK and Sulaimani’s administration.
“After Nawshirwan, we predict Qadir to play the most important role within the Gorran party. He will be Gorran’s policy maker and implementer, even if he is not officially appointed as leader of the party. He is accepted by the party’s youth. He is a decisive person. In addition, he is also known to Iranians by virtue of his leading the Zaniari agency. He also has very good relations with PUK leaders. His relations with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are not bad, either,” said a PUK leader who did not want to be identified by name.
Iran watches Gorran leader’s replacement
After the formation of the Change Movement, Iran was the only country which Nawshirwan Mustafa officially visited, in July 2012.
Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, directed a statement to PUK leader Jalal Talabani expressing his condolences for the death of the Gorran leader. Soleimani is a known figure in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
“Iranians, especially Haji Soleimani, are watching the replacement of Nawshirwan Mustafa because they take the peace, security, and political stability of the region as important, especially in Sulaimani region. I think they will not interfere in replacing the leader. They showed dedication and were anxious about the internal situations of the PUK. They are the same for Gorran,” Nazim Dabbagh, Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) representative to Iran, told Rudaw.
“Haji Qasem had visited Nawshirwan any time he was in Erbil and Sulaimani. Nawshirwan had good, friendly relations with Iran when he was PUK’s deputy leader and leader of the Komala. He knew most politicians and military commanders. That is why Iranians are sad about the death of Nawshirwan. They seriously want to continue their relations with the Gorran party,” Dabbagh, who is also PUK’s representative in Tehran, added.
Dealing with Gorran people is not easy, a party’s founder says
“I predict that they will be forming a joint committee to run their affairs until the situations normalize. Replacing Nawshirwan is difficult. The party cannot be run by one person,” Osman Banimarani, former PUK leadership member and one of the founders of the Gorran party, said.
Banimarani left the Gorran party and rejoined the PUK in April 2014.
“Dealing with Gorran members is not easy. That is why I believe Gorran officials will not be electing a leader for the party. Rather, they will be forming committees to run their affairs,” Banimarani added.
“A leader will not be elected for the party. Rather, the affairs will be run as before. The Secretary of the National Assembly will be the party’s highest official, according to the party’s organ structure. A consultation group made up of high officials will be running the party’s affairs,” a source from Gorran told Rudaw.
“On November 12, 2016, Nawshirwan, when he was still in London, sent an 8-point statement to the party’s National and General Assembly, heads of other offices and consultation group. In the statement, he had clearly determined the future of the party and how it should be run, in a way that ensures a maximum number of officials and organs taking part in the decision-making process. In the last point, he had clearly said that everyone and every organ should commit to the decisions made by the National Assembly, and that anyone violating them should be dealt with according to Gorran’s constitution,” the source detailed.
According to article 12 of Gorran’s internal constitution, the party should have formed an implementation body which plays the role of a politburo and is responsible for the execution of the decisions and recommendations of the party’s National Assembly. But this body was not formed. A member of the body can fulfill the responsibilities of the party leader.
On May 21, 2017, the final official day of mourning for the party leader, the Change Movement ruled out any intentions to unite with the PUK.
“We reassure Gorran members and fans that our Movement will remain the same, and we will protect Gorran’s objectives and messages in the way which Nawshirwan had designed for the party,” the Change Movement announced.
After forming the Change Movement, Nawshirwan Mustafa left the Kurdistan Region twice for some extended periods. In the first time, he went and remained in London for seven months and returned to Sulaimani on April 28, 2016.
The second time, he left Kurdistan to receive treatment abroad on September 3, 2016, and returned home on May 13, 2017. He passed away six days after his return.
How a Gorran leader is elected
The Change Movement’s internal constitution, which was approved in the party’s first congress held in 2013, discusses the election of the party leader.
“The General Coordinator [party leader] is approved in the National Assembly by a simple majority in a secret and direct vote, and will be changed by an absolute majority of all its members,” part 9, article 13, section 2 of Gorran’s constitution, reads.
“The General Coordinator is elected once every two years,” section 3 of the same article dictates.
“If the position of the Movement’s General Coordinator becomes vacant, due to resignation or other reasons, a member of the National or General Assembly, or a prominent member of the Change Movement outside these two assemblies, will be elected to fill the position by an absolute majority in a secret and direct vote. If in the first round of election, he doesn’t get the necessary votes, another election will be held for the two persons with most votes. Then, a simple majority vote is enough to elect a leader,” Gorran’s constitution states.
Who will be leading Gorran at this time?
Jamal Haji Mohammed was born on October 23, 1957, in Halabja. He completed studies at a teaching institute in Duhok.
He was a member of the Komala between 1975 until 1979 and became a Peshmerga in 1979.
Mohammed was elected PUK leadership member in the party’s second congress.
He was mayor of Dokan from 1993 until 1996 and was the head of the PUK branch in Europe for some years.
On November 21, 1982, in the mountains, Mohammed married. He has seven daughters and a son.
He is one of the founders of the Change Movement and is currently the Secretary of Gorran’s National Assembly.